Portugal Road Trip

Here you can view all my blog posts from our trip to Portugal in September 2017.

  • Planning and Preparation (8/25/2017)

    In the run-up to our next holiday, I have been far more proactive than usual. This time I have booked all the accommodation in advance; I usually don’t book anything so we have total freedom. So… Why this time??

    PORTUGAL IS EXPENSIVE!

    I didn’t realise this before, but compared to all previous holidays, even going way back to holidays in Greece, Asia, Croatia, Morocco… Portugal appears to be the most expensive so far. Which is contrary to what I had thought. I initially wanted to go to Nairobi, Kenya for this holiday but we decided, in the end, to go for a ‘cheap’ holiday instead :) I mean, it’s not breaking the bank, but my usual £30 a night budget for usually very nice accommodation has gone out the window. We’re now paying about £50 a night for low standard accommodation. Which has meant more planning to make sure we’re not stuck with absolute shit.

    Not to mention that when I went on booking.com on Monday this week to search for Lisbon, it told me 98% of the accommodation on their site had been booked! Which I am inclined to believe looking at what’s left! This was also the case for everywhere else I wanted to go. So this week I have been frantically trying to book everything and plan in advance to get ready for our trip in 10 days! EEEEK!

    So anyway, there we have it, rant over. On the positive, it should mean our trip is care-free. No trying to book accommodation in a car or on a bus, knowing exactly where we are going to go next and no hard decisions to make on the road. It should mean we can focus more on just enjoying the present and not focusing on the next place too much…. I hope!

    So far:
    Lisbon 2 nights – booked!
    Sintra 2 nights – booked!
    Benagil 1 night – booked!
    Lagos 3 nights – almost booked….
    Monchique 1 night – booked!
    Car hire – booked!
    Car hire excess – booked!
    Clothes – bought!

    What’s left to do?!?! … Get excited! 😀

    View Portugal Road Trip on Libbytes’s travel map.

  • Walking in Lisbon (9/3/2017)

    We arrived in Lisbon from Manchester quite late Friday evening. Although we were hiring a car, we decided not to hire a car in Lisbon as the traffic and parking is quite bad and the hostel I had booked did not have parking available. It also saved us a bit of money for fewer days hire and enabled us to use the great public transport options which Lisbon has to offer.

    We stayed in the Alfama area of Lisbon, which I would totally recommend; it’s close to all the best sights and within walking distance of almost everything that Pete and I wanted to do in Lisbon. Alfama is the old district of Lisbon and as such has narrow streets and traditional features (hence the bad parking), but is also the best place to catch the famous Lisbon tram.

    On our first full day (after a poor nights’ sleep) we woke quite late and headed out on foot to the nearby Lisbon Cathedral. We had hoped to pick up the tram from here and do the famous circuit, but every tram which went past was completed rammed. We decided to delay this experience and wake up early on Sunday to try instead…

    From here though, it is only a short walk to the main commercial square which is on the river Targus and very pretty.

    We walked North from here into the Bairro Alto district where Pete bought some new trainers. The limestone cobbled streets of Lisbon may look pretty, but they’re so slippy! Even in the baking sun with not a drop of water! We found a lovely little cafe along the streets here called Organi Chiado which had a great range of vegan dishes. It was one of our favourite meals of the whole holiday. MMMmmm….

    We stopped briefly at Luis de Camoes Square which was pleasant enough, before walking South again back down to the riverfront. It was such a hot day that we then just sat in the shade and drank a few cocktails.

    By late afternoon we decided to finish the day up in the Castle which was a steep walk but the views were great and the Castle was pretty interesting. Although Pete’s favourite bit was seeing peacocks in a tree!

    That evening we followed HappyCow to Lisbon Vegan Food Project which was quite nice although I think we chose the worst things on the menu 🙂

    The following day we got up early and headed out to Martim Moniz metro station which is where the famous yellow trams begins it’s loop around Lisbon. We hopped on the tram and managed to get the best seats at the back 🙂

    The tram ride itself is very touristy, I think it’s basically THE thing to do in Lisbon, so after a few stops it was very busy and packed out, not something I usually like. However, I must admit it was a lot of fun. The tram is very small and old, I think they were built in the 30s, they’re very cute but also very skilled at traversing the old tram routes through narrow undulating streets. It’s like being on a rollercoaster! The tram takes you past a lot of the main attractions of Lisbon, but I preferred just going through the narrow streets and seeing the daily life.

    After the tram ride we began walking again, stopping briefly on Augusta street to sample the famous Pastel de Nata. We had planned to go on the Elevator de Santa Justa, but the queue was ridiculous, so we continued walking through the major squares; Rossio and Figueira.

    It was a long weekend of walking in total, my fitbit was on overdrive, but luckily, we headed straight from Lisbon back to the airport to pick up our hire car for the rest of the trip. On the way out of Lisbon we stopped and ate at Veganeats Cafe which was very nice and waited for our Uber back to the airport at Alameda Dom Afonso Henriques Park.

    Unfortunately, we had to wait over an hour in a queue to get our pre-booked car, but we were soon on our way West to Sinta…

    Both Pete and I really liked Lisbon. It’s a pretty city with lots of different things to see and do. It was quite busy, but being a city it seemed able to cope with the number of tourists and it’s strong culture seems able to cope and stand up to the different cultures visiting it. We only have 1 and 1/2 days in Lisbon, but we were happy with that as we were itching to see more of Portugal!

  • Sightseeing in Sintra (9/5/2017)

    We picked up the car and headed off towards Sintra, it was a beautifully sunny day, so we decided to stop along the way at a couple of the beaches on the Atlantic coast; Praia do Guincho and Cresmina. They were incredibly windy and full of surfers, windsurfers and other active people, but they were also really pretty. We braved the water about up to our ankles, but the cold wind pushed us towards the man-made shelters on the beach.

    From here we turned back into the hills. Sintra on its own is such a pretty village, in the hills of Portugal with narrow lanes and amazing architecture. Hills on all sides of the villages are home to castles and huge holiday farms for royalty (Quintas). However, it was ridiculously touristy. Much more than I had imagined. The traffic was bad and there were people everywhere. The queue for the tourist circuit bus which takes you up and down the mountains to the castles was about 1 hour long! We were a little overwhelmed, so headed straight for our hostel just outside Sintra near the Quinta da Regaleira; the main place I wanted to visit here.

    Our hostel was a new experience for Pete. He has never stayed in one before so didn’t know what to expect. Hostels vary greatly in my opinion, even the same hostel can have a different atmosphere to it, depending on who is staying there at the time. Ours certainly had a hippie feeling to it, with people playing the guitar and singing in the common area. We also requested a ‘vegan breakfast’ from here, which we were told by the owner was ‘very good’, but unfortunately, it was literally just bread and jam… oh and some “vegan organic butter from some local cows” – so we were very confused…!

    The following morning we woke early (for holiday) and headed to the Quinta da Regaleira, there was a small queue when we got there and it took about 10 minutes to pay and get in, but the queue was massive by the time we got our tickets and headed out into the park, we must have timed it just right!

    The Quinta was strange and spectacular in equal measures. I read reviews that described it as ‘an adults theme park’ which was quite a good description actually. It’s essentially a big house and gardens which was built in 1910 and is now open to the public. It has secret caves and passageways which take you from different areas of the gardens and to a high inverted tower or initiation well, which is thought to have links to the Knights Templar. It was really interesting and fun to walk through, especially since by the time we got there, we were the only ones in the tunnels!

    The palace was also beautiful, with views up to the Moorish Castle, which we weren’t going to go to, but seeing it at the top of the mountain encouraged us to visit it!

    So from the Quinta, we grabbed an Uber up to the top of the hill to the Moorish Castle entrance, this helped us avoid the tourist bus, and was actually cheaper than taking the bus anyway!

    The castle was a great contrast to the Quinta, with spectacular views over the valley and Pena Palace. It was built in the 8th and 9th centuries but is clearly well maintained. Pete was especially fascinated with these circular holes which appeared everywhere. We read all the signs, and even googled it, but there are still multiple theories as to what they actually are and nobody knows for certain.

    After a very strenuous day of walking we had a few drinks in Sintra (sampling green wine and muscatel), a tasty indian curry and an early night!

    We liked the sights of Sintra, and we only scratched the surface of what there is to do! But the village was too busy for us to really enjoy and relax. We began to get worried about the rest of our holiday and how busy the Lagos region might be… Only time would tell!

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